Looking Back

I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on my year (and a funny old year it’s been) before looking forward to the new year in a few days.  It’s nice and quiet in the house and after such a lovely time (Christmas Morning) it’s left me in an appropriately reflective mood, so here goes:

 

Health

What a year it’s been, around the middle of January 2004 I started with another flare of Adult Onset Still’s Disease, which had been in remission for about 8 months.  This time no remission has occurred and one year on I am still suffering. However I have come to terms with it well and am approaching the point after many experiments (often painful) and lots of record keeping, research and analysis I think I am on the brink of getting things under control.  My Specialists now think as well as AOSD I have two other secondary auto-immune disorders Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

 

The conditions are very unpredictable resulting in a great difficulty in planning things, so living in the moment has become the order of the day.

 

Also for all of the conditions exercise and variety of movement and activity are essential which means that although I work from home my days have a lot of variety with (when I can manage it) lots of beach walking, swimming, walking to the shops, trampolining in the garden, reading in the garden, working on the beach or beach side Cafes, as well as working in my very well equipped home office.

 

Happiness

I decided to start the review with Health because its pretty negative, which makes this section all the more amazing.  I am in fact much happier this year than last year. Although I live with daily pain and frustration there are many positives I have managed to build into my life, here is a sampler:

 

  1. My work and family life are seamlessly integrated, by this I mean that whenever the opportunity arises to spend time with my family I am able to take that time and fit work around that primary commitment.  This means I often find myself working at odd times but that’s no hassle as I have trained myself to work within my health limitations.
  2. When I am tired, in pain, finding it difficult to concentrate I just do something else and being at home there’s plenty to do
  3. I can take advantage of good weather, and where I live we have a very positive micro-climate that means we get much better weather than the poor folks in Preston just 20 miles inland!
  4. I have trained myself to avoid frustration, this works most of the time, one of the most frustrating things for me was that my company would not invest in my productivity.  I decided as soon as I became ill that I earned enough money to invest in my own productivity so I now have a superb working environment and IT facilities, (some paid for by the company but a lot of it a personal commitment to my well being).  I also invest quite a lot in my own comfort, expensive walking gear, swimming gear, bike etc – I still save quite a lot but within limits I now feel little or no guilt about spending the money I save by working from home on MYSELF.
  5. I have re-discovered reading, I used to read a lot but then lapsed into business reading/reviewing dominating most of my available reading time.  Largely because of AOSD and the need to take lots of rest and hot baths (I read in the bath) I have started reading for 1 or 2 hours a day, I joined a reading group which has exposed me to all types of books I would never have come across and the monthly discussions have been very stimulating.  We had a Christmas party this year which was great fun with everyone talking about their favourite books and it’s becoming quite a social event.
  6. I am getting loads of exercise, which probably sounds strange when you have a condition that gives you systemic/chronic muscle and joint pain and fatigue, however within limits the more you do with these conditions the better you feel.  I love walking, swimming and cycling and live just by the sea and within a few minutes of a great health club.  I usually have the pool to myself!  On some bad days I live for the exercise; when the endorphins get flowing I feel so much better than suffering in a chair trying to type with painful fingers, wrists, neck, back, ankles …
  7. Although I work from home I don’t feel isolated, in fact I probably spend more time on social interaction than I did in a business oriented office environment.  The combination of lots of eating out, reading groups, family life, social get togethers for lunch with friends, instant messenger and phone chats and the odd visit to the office are quite enough for a mild Asbergers Syndrome sufferer like myself.
  8. I have discovered RSS feeds, which provide me with a constant stream of interesting reading material on all sorts of topics, (many work related), but lots on broader topics as well.
  9. I have trained myself to live more in the moment, to save less and spend more on experience than things, this particularly applies to the kids who soak up a lot of money in a whole variety of music, drama and sports lessons but to see them develop is a real joy, especially for Debbie who dreams of all of them playing together.  Debbie plays Violin and Cello, Stephie: keyboard and Viola, Jenny: Clarinet and Flute, Anna: Flute and Recorder, Tessa: Bugle and Trumpet.  All of the girls are great singers and love drama; Stephie is also quite the academic.
  10.  I eat out a lot, it’s one of my real joys to eat breakfast every morning in one of our beach side Cafes,  I know all of the staff and after a morning walk I tend to spend an hour working there and preparing for the day.  It’s the best start I can imagine.  We also regularly eat out as a family, generally in places where we are well known, and any family with four lovely girls like ours quickly gets well known!
  11. Work no longer dominates my life, see later …

 

Family

Although it was a bit of a struggle for Debbie to suddenly have me interrupting her daily routine and having to learn to get used to not having the house to herself all day, I think she has adjusted well.  She now has so much more freedom, gets out a lot more and has time to indulge her creativity by supporting the Church in general and the kids club she runs in particular.   I am a fully integrated member of the family now, not just a weekend Dad and the kids seem to really enjoy that, although it does mean there is a bit more structure and discipline!

 

In general though I think we have done really well as a family:

 

  1. Debbie has had time to develop as her own person at last after years dominated by looking after the house and kids
  2. The girls have all developed tremendously becoming much more balanced individuals, and all picking up some great life skills as well as working hard at school
  3. We have managed quite a lot of holidays, thanks to Debbie’s fantastic organising, and although we have had to take the risk that I will be ok, we managed three holidays (North Wales, West Wales and Scotland) and I managed to largely keep up each time

 

Work

Of course work has changed dramatically for me, but in many ways the change has been positive.  I have had to reduce my hours and work from home.  I do less time sensitive stressful customer facing work, and concentrate on longer term internal research and strategy.  There is a bit more of a story to tell:

 

  1. I was getting very frustrated by the degree to which politics and administration were dominating my days, requiring me to do actual creative work during the evenings – long days – this has changed completely now.  I only work 5-6 hours a day but of that probably 5 hours a day is either research or creative activity or constructive communication, much more enjoyable
  2. I was very frustrated by the poor quality of my office environment and tools – I now work at home in an office that I have designed and optimised to meet my needs.  I share the Office with my wife which is nice (most of the time) and have spared little expense in getting things the way I want them (eBay has helped again here in making this affordable)
  3. I work mainly on global projects, most of my interactions are using Instant Messenger, Conference Calls (I have a Polycom conference phone), or Email so it doesn’t matter much where I work.  I just wish I had a Blackberry or GPRS/Wireless access from my Tablet PC but that will almost certainly be resolved next year.   I would love seamless/easy to use Voice/Video and application sharing with my main contacts but again it’s not too far away.
  4. I bought myself a Tablet PC which has transformed the way in which I read and review, particularly because I no longer do that sitting at my desk, I now do it by the side of the swimming pool, in a deck chair in my garden, sitting in a café watching the sunrise/sunset etc etc.  Much better for my physical health (I need to move around a lot) and much more fun!
  5. I am still trying to get my new work role fully established, I have it clear in my mind,  its just a the small step of getting people to agree to pay me to do it that remains, but I am confident that January will see that bought to conclusion
  6. I have noticed that by being available to consult on lots of projects I am adding a surprising amount of value, every month I manage to provide advice to someone that saves £50-£200K, not a bad return on investment.
  7. I have been disappointed to see some of my friends leave my company, but pleased to see them making a new life for themselves.  Hopefully a few will stay as it’s nice to have a network of friends that you know you can rely on.  I am pleased to say though that so far the people who leave still keep in touch and we are establishing quite a little community of people working for all of the major IT service Providers in the UK!
  8. My company has been very good to me in all sorts of ways, primarily people who I know and who care about me have been great, people who’s job it is to care (but don’t know me) have not been so good and the bureaucracy has been pretty abysmal – but that’s to be expected in a large company – but not forgiven!

 

Summary

I was sort of inspired to write this by Graham, when I read his review I thought – where’s the summary – he later wrote one.  Anyway here’s mine.

 

  1. A very challenging year
  2. A year filled with physical pain and frustration
  3. A year of successful reinvention
  4. Perhaps not my best year ever but certainly better than the previous two years
  5. A year of considerable reflection and preparation for an even better year next year, hopefully my best ever

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

1 Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    You radiate contentment, almost happiness to all of us; but it is not as contagious as I had wished it to be. Anyway, you are still a source of inspiration for me. I wish you a very happy 2005.

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